GOD’S HOLINESS. A REAPPRAISAL
EMMANUEL DURAND O.P.
This paper attempts a cross-examination of divine holiness and transcendence. Contemporary continental
philosophy shows both concern and embarrassment when dealing with God’s transcendence. It is often
interpreted as an exclusion from this world. The underlying projection belongs to some residual Deism of
our age. By analyzing three biblical accounts of holiness (Hosea 11; Isaiah 6; Exodus 3), this paper pro-
poses a requalification of transcendence according to the narratives through which it is revealed and
addressed to three specific partners of God. Ultimately, holiness proves to be the transforming power
In the Hebrew Bible, God is often designated as the Almighty. God is located in
heaven, or even beyond the heavens (Ps. 115:3). God exceeds and watches over
God’s entire creation. God sits in heaven on a very high throne (Isa. 6:1). God thus
seems to have the features of separation and hierarchy which are valid among beings
of the world: altitude, distance. However, the Hebrew Bible never understood such
an elevation of God in a way that might contradict God’s proximity toward the ones
who are humiliated:
For thus says the high and lofty one
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isa. 57:15)
Emmanuel Durand O.P.
Dominican University College, 96 Empress Avenue, Ottawa ON, K1R 7G3, CANADA
*I wish to thank Jeremiah Batram, Martin Wallace, and Christophe Chalamet for their comments on the
first draft of this paper and the help they provided for the translation.
See Richard Bauckham, “God Crucified,” in Jesus and the God of Israel (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008), 35–7.
2018 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Modern Theology 34:3 July 2018
ISSN 0266-7177 (Print)
ISSN 1468-0025 (Online)